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Eleven Million Euros for Researching New Types of Cancer Treatment

German Research Foundation approves collaborative research center “OncoEscape”

Freiburg, May 25, 2021

The German Research Foundation (DFG) will begin providing support for the collaborative research center collaborative research centers (Sonderforschungsbereich, SFB), CRC 1479 “OncoEscape – Oncogenically Driven Immune Escape” on 1 July 2021. The CRC is receiving almost eleven million euros for an initial four years. The researchers aim to investigate how certain genetic characteristics first contribute to the formation of tumor cells and later to their escape from the immune system. Improved understanding of what is known as immune escape is particularly important and essential for developing treatments for advanced cancers. The coordinator of the CRC is Prof. Dr. Robert Zeiser, Head of the Tumor Immunology and Immune Modulation Section of the Department of Medicine I at the University Medical Center Freiburg. The research groups taking part in the project belong to the University Medical Center Freiburg, the University of Freiburg, the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, the German. Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, and the Georg- Speyer-Haus in Frankfurt.

“Our immune system is the most important weapon in the fight against cancer. In the new collaborative research center, our objective is to understand how tumor cells succeed in escaping the immune system – and how this can be prevented. I’m very optimistic, that with this knowledge, new, sustainably effective cancer therapies can be developed,” says Zeiser. The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Freiburg, Prof. Dr. Lutz Hein, notes, “Establishing this new collaborative research center is an outstanding achievement in a very competitive field of research. It is a dynamic expression of translational research, a frequently demanded approach via which patients come to profit from basic research findings as quickly as possible. My heartfelt best wishes to all the doctors and researchers involved.”

Stimulating oncogenes and inhibiting tumor suppressor genes precisely regulate how often cells divide in normal tissue. Yet if oncogenes are genetically overactivated or tumor suppressor genes are lost, the normal cell changes into a cancer cell. Both processes lead to change in intercellular signal transmission, which is described generally as “oncogenic signaling.” Initially, oncogenic signaling leads to tumor growth and later to increased genetic instability. Through this, tumor cells can develop mechanisms that make them invisible to the immune system or switch off immune cells. These mechanisms are grouped under the term “immune escape.”

There are already today certain types of immune and targeted therapies that work directly to block cancer promoting signals. Based on observing these, the doctors and researchers will investigate how cancer cells precisely manage to escape the immune response. “We’re hopeful that our results will lead to a paradigm shift in the understanding of the biology of different types of tumors and their treatment,” says Prof. Dr. Justus Duyster, a section leader of CRC 1479 and Medical Director of the Department of Medicine I at the University Medical Center Freiburg. “Researchers from the fields of oncogenic signaling research and tumor immunology have long been cooperating closely in Freiburg. That will be key to the success of this initiative,” says Prof. Dr. Tilman Brummer, the Deputy Coordinator of CRC 1479 and a research group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Cell Research at the University of Freiburg.


Prof. Dr. Robert Zeiser
Department of Internal Medicine I, (Hematology, Oncology, Stem Cell Transplantation)
University Medical Center Freiburg
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/270-34580

Rimma Gerenstein
Public Relations
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/230-8812